Epic 2010 Vintage of Brunello Di Montalcino

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Sangiovese grapes in the fields of Montalcino.

Last night I had the opportunity to attend an exclusive 2010 vintage Brunello tasting sponsored by the Consorzio Del Vino Brunello Di Montalcino, and what better place to host an Italian wine tasting than the rooftop of LaBirreria in Eataly, New York.  The Brunello tasting was to kickoff  the official US launch of Jancis Robinson’s long awaited release of her encyclopedic book, The Oxford Companion to Wine, Fourth Edition.  Jancis Robinson is a renowned wine critic and one of the most influential writers in the wine world. She currently writes for the Financial Times and has written several authoritative books on wines, such as The World Atlas of Wine. Jancis Robinson personally selected 30 of Italy’s top Brunello producers to showcase the remarkable 2010 vintage for her book launch.

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Wines with the Brunello Di Montalcino label are made with 100% Sangiovese grape. Brunello is the most regal of all the Tuscan wines.  Montalcino is where the Sangiovese grape most perfectly presents itself.  Located a short distance south of Siena, Montalcino has a modest elevation of 900 to 1800 feet and a picturesque country side.  I had an opportunity to visit Montalcino last summer. During my visit to Montalcino I visited several vineyards, tasted fabulous wines and olive oils and spent time with some magnificent winemakers.  This medieval town boasts beautiful rolling hills, with majestically tall Cypress trees and fields upon fields of olive trees.  No trip to Tuscany is complete with a visit to Montalcino.

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Overlooking the vineyards of Montalcino.

Montalcino is one of the the driest and warmest regions of Tuscany, thus producing ripe grapes earlier than neighboring towns.  The altitude and climate of Montalcino allows for the Sangiovese grape to express itself most beautifully.  Once harvested, the grapes go through an extended period of maceration for extraction and then after fermentation the wines are aged in oak.  Traditionally producers will age their wines in oak for a minimum of three years and then an additional twelve more months in the bottles before release.  Remarkably, the top producers with reserve wines will age their Brunellos for up to five years before release.  Brunellos are prestigious wines that can be aged and thus are ideal for devoted collectors.

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Brunellos are brawny, masculine and powerful wines, with a  deep ruby color, rich intense flavors, and astringent tannins.  The wines express dark cherries, blackberries, chocolate, black pepper, leather, spice and an intense earthy, mineral quality.  Brunellos are best served with cheese, charcuterie, and red meats.  The sharp acidity and chewy tannins of Brunellos, make it a perfect wine to pair with a juicy steak.  In Tuscany, Brunello is often paired with grilled portobello mushrooms served over creamy polenta.

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The 2010 vintage is one of the most impressive vintage in the region’s history. 2010 was a fantastic year for Brunellos.  Most of the 2010 vintage was sold out in the first 24 hours of release.  The Brunellos of this vintage are perfectly balanced with rich ripe fruit, mouth puckering acidity and tongue curling tannins.  The 2010 Brunellos have wonderful structure and the tannins are well integrated with the fruits.  The wines will easily age and develop for the next 20 years.  2010 presented itself with the most ideal weather conditions, with a long warm summer during the day and moderately cool nights.

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There was great variability in the 30 wines presented at the event depending on where the grapes were planted (north or south) and what elevation the grapes were grown.  With no vintage and weather variation, it was clear to see the expressions of the terroir and the finesse of the winemakers clearly exhibited in all the wines.  I have listed my favorite wines from this 2010 Brunello Di Montalcino tasting along with my tasting notes.  The wines are available in the United States, though the 2010’s are selling out very fast.

2010 Querce Bettina Brunello Di Montalcino $65  –  This wine is aged 36 months in barrel and then 12 months in the bottle.  It exhibits smooth tannins, fresh acidity, and a long finish.  It has well concentrated fruits, such as cherries and blackberries, as well as hints of leather and cinnamon.  The tannins in this wine are silky smooth.  The wine is still very young and with age will evolve beautifully.

2010 Sesti Brunello Di Montalcino $80 – This wine delivers on all fronts.  The acidity is perfectly balanced between the fruits and tannins.  The fruits are ripe and fresh with hints of cherries, licorice and leathery earthiness.  This wine will be the perfect to open in 10 years, so as to allow the tannins to soften.

2010 Il Marroneto Brunello Di Montalcino  $65 – Il Marroneto was my favorite wine of the evening. This is a wonderfully powerful wine with a lot of finesse.  The grapes are harvested with the same selection and care that would go into producing grand cru wines.  This full bodied wine had fresh fruit, and a smoky minerality that was quite distinct from the other Brunellos of the evening.  Again this wine is quite young, and I recommend putting away in your cellar for at least 10 years.

2010 Máté Brunello Di Montalcino  $55 – This was a full bodied complex wine.  Máté had wild floral notes, fruit and spice.  The wine has the perfect balance of acidity, fruit and tannins.  Especially intriguing were the winemakers behind this wine.  The winemakers are a husband and wife team from New York who transplated themselves to Montalcino in 1990.  The husband(Ferenc Máté) is an accomplished writer.  His book A Vineyard in Tuscany is funny and poignant and is a book to be savored and enjoyed.  His wife is a artist and has elegantly designed the labels for their wines.

2010  Terralsole Brunello Di Montalcino $55 – One of the hidden gems of the evening was the Terralsole. It is an elegant well structured wine.  Terralsole means land towards the sun.  It was heartwarming to meet Mario Bollog the owner and winemaker of this estate.  We discussed the terroir of the wine, and his wine making style.  This Brunello is a full bodied wine with super silky tannins.  The soft tannins of this wine would make it a perfect compliment with bitter sweet dark chocolate.

I highly recommend stocking up on the 2010 Brunello Di Montalcinos before they evaporate from all the shelves.

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